One year ago I gathered up all the strength and courage I could and left the man I had spent 4 years building a life with. Two weeks later he came into my home and beat me unconscious, grabbing me by the throat throwing me around, cracking the back of my head open and tearing my shoulder and lower back. Both of us had become desensitized to his violence as it increased over the years. Him picking me up by my throat, spitting in my face, and threatening me out of frustration and anger become a monthly, if not daily occurrence. But this time was different I was badly injured and needed medical attention. The emotional and mental abuse was much more painful than any physical violence. The police became involved he was arrested, charged and a restraining order put in place.
What happened next I could never have imagined. Due to being a professional and trained fighter his assult changes were reported by the local newspaper. In a hopes to protect his reputation his friends started slandering and pointing blame at me. I was attacked and shamed by what sometimes felt like the entire community. At first some people couldn't accept he would do this without me somehow being to blame; she must be vindictive and lying, she must be jealous, she must have hit him first and provoked it.
Here is the truth.
I was terrified of him at every level. His supporters spread lies and gossip about me. I received hundreds of abusive messages calling me the worst things imaginable and threatening me. My yoga studio was attacked. My daughter and I had to stay in a safe house. I was bullied by women I respected (or warned to stay quite to protect my reputation and career), by professionals, by my friends and family. I felt I was left without a voice meanwhile enduring the most painful experience of my life.
I remember vividly the first time he lost his temper with me. It was about 5 months into our relationship. The days leading up he was ferocious at his mother for not allowing his friends at the family cabin. He was irritable and irrational due to self medicating with testosterone (and other things). I was walking on eggshells not to make him even more mad so I stayed silent as his belittling and cruel comments got worse. He showed up at my house enraged that I wasn't packed and ready to leave to the cabin for the weekend. I was confused. He screamed, called me names, threatened me, and threw a towel across the house knocking over candles and pictures and stormed out.
He didn't hit me or hurt me physically but he did feel bad so he justifed his actions by blaming his anger on me. He had his friends send me messages saying horrible things so that I would doubt myself and think I was actually the one to blame. He left for the weekend with his friends. Came back with flowers and tears begging me to forgive him. I did, even though I knew his actions were a huge red flag. I told myself if he ever actually hit me I would end it.
I remember the first time he punched me in the face.
He had been screaming at me with insults and vulgar name calling, this had become his normal reaction if I disagreed with him or had any feeling of my own. He walked into my daughter's room to read her a bed time story. I didn't want my daughter to think it's okay for a man to treat her this way. I walked in and calmly said "how you are treating me is not okay and you need to leave my house" I stood tall and pointed to the door. He looked me dead in the eyes and punched me in the mouth, turned around, and proceeded to lovingly read to my daughter. I was in shock. I went to the bathroom and cried. He just punched me in the face.! My lip was bleeding. This was the solid line in my mind that signified I was in an abusive relationship and needed to leave. What should I do right now?! I don't want to leave the house. I don't want to call the police. I don't want to tell anyone.
When he was done putting her to bed he came into my room and went to sleep. I stayed in the bathroom a few more hours feeling completely defeated in my attempt for self respect and then joined him in bed. Everyone has an opinion of what they would do in this situation. This moment broke me. I had slowly been desensitized. I could not longer accept this was my reality and tried to rationalize it. Can you imagine what you would do in this situation? I took what seemed like the path of least resistance in the moment.
In the morning I covered the bruise on my face and left to teach a class. He came in later with a muffin for me and gave me a kiss. Later that day he made a loving post on social media and brought me flowers. He was a big guy, he could have hit me way harder if he actually wanted to hurt me. He was just frustrated and didn't know how to better express it. I know he loves me. It's to painful to leave. No one will believe me. If I try to talk to him about it he'll sigh, roll his eyes and say I'm picking a fight. I felt so trapped. So powerless and without a voice. I felt like it was my fault. Mostly I just wanted him to see how he was hurting me and stop.
I let myself be pushed past a boundary that I would have never imagined.
It's almost been a year and I am still receiving harassing messages and having abuse hurled at me walking or driving down the street. I am still receiving guilt trips by his friends and family. This is wrong! This is why I was terrified to go to the police for help. This is why victims are scared to stand of for themselves.
Many times during this relationship when I wanted to leave or get help he threatened me that if I did he would make sure everyone in our town would hate me. He warned me I would never work in this town again and wouldn't be able to walk down the street without being spat on. He convinced me I was crazy and alone. Even with all this warning I was shocked when it came to pass. He used his position in the community as a "hero" to control me. The whole time I stayed quite and suffered in silence.
I let shame control me. I am a strong woman, how did I let things get this bad. Why did I let someone treat me like this? I let the shame isolate me and that made me easy prey. I believed I wasn't good enough to be loved. My self worth was non-existent and I no longer trusted anything I felt or thought. My whole life revoled around not being rejected by him.
The truth is it had nothing to do with me. How he treated me was a reflection of his own self judgment, his own suffering. It's easy to look at a situation or person and judge "good" or "bad" but life isn't that simple. I believe that in everyone there is good. I saw the good in him. He was struggling with deep pain and insecurities. I loved him and was devoted to him wholeheartedly, I thought I could work on myself to become better and our relationship would improve. I thought I was responsible for his emotions, reactions, behavior. I thought I was the problem. The more I worked on my own self-esteem and self love the worse it became. When these people called me a liar they imprisoned him, not me. The truth set me free. I know deep down he's sorry. I don't have anything but love and compassion for him. I pray for his courage everyday to face his fear and stand in his truth. I have stayed silent to protect him, it's time I speak up and start living my life again, free from the fear.